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Park scores hat trick with truck series win

By Bill Center

FONTANA Steve Park, who lost his Nextel Cup ride shortly after winning the pole at California Speedway in 2003, last night became the 10th NASCAR driver to score victories in all three national series by winning the American Racing Wheels 200 for Craftsman Trucks.

The 38-year-old, who crashed 19 laps into the 2003 Auto Club 500 after lambasting the media for his treatment in his pole-winning media conference, finished 1.229 seconds ahead of Daytona winner Bobby Hamilton in the 100-lap race around the two-mile oval.

Ricky Craven's Ford was third behind the front-running Dodges as Nextel Cup veterans swept the top three places and claimed eight of the top 10 finishing positions. Ted Musgrave, who had won three straight truck races at California Speedway before finishing second last fall, finished fifth.

Park won three Busch races in 1997. His only Nextel Cup win came four years ago yesterday at Rockingham, N.C. That win came a week after Dale Earnhardt died at Daytona.

"I never doubted myself," said Park, who had struggled since suffering a major head injury in a 2001 accident at the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C. "I think other people doubted me. I think that bothered me the most, just listening to the doubters."

Park inherited the lead with six laps to go when Mike Bliss ran out of gas.

Bliss was subbing for three-time series champ Jack Sprague, who broke his left ankle earlier this week in a fall from a ladder. Sprague started the race to gain the championship points but climbed out during the first caution period.

Blossom Valley's Brandon Whitt finished 23rd after making a career-best qualifying run yesterday morning. Whitt's Toyota was fifth on the grid.

"To have that kind of a qualifying run in our second race for Toyota is a big deal," said Whitt.
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